Putting the Pandemic in Verse

Our latest Corona Chronicle captures New York in Our Year of the Plague 2022


Photos by Reuben Radding



By Shelley Stenhouse


New York is a three-legged dog
finding fresh footing. Below
my window, in 98-degree
heat, Jim the hefty restaurant
manager builds a deck that juts
out like a dock on the tar river
of Grove Street. He measures
stocky wall boxes 18 inches
deep. This precise distance
protects us from vehicles
(just as 6 feet protects us
from particles). Jim is valiant
and the wooden vision
emerges. Landscapers come
and fill the boxes with plants.
Huge blue umbrellas spring up.
Silver, glasses, waiters, diners
laughing, hooting ha ha ha—
another round! Jim used to live
in my building with a huge
old dog named Porter
who lumbered up 4 flights.
Since Jim moved, I never ask
about Porter, because Porter
is dead by now.
This week I had to put
my cat Calvin to sleep.
Only a few knew Calvin.
He’s the one whose paw
I held on the sofa
during lockdown,
we chanted when protests
went by before his cancer
came back the size of a plum.
Like Patsy the servant
in Monty Python’s Holy Grail
let’s bang coconut halves
together imitating horse hooves
and pretend we can ride across
the human gaps that have toppled
the world. I notice on West 4th Street
the restaurant boxes are full
of stagnant water and trash.
Troughs to feed this new animal
we’ve become.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

Shelley Stenhouse won the 2019 Palette Poetry Prize. Her collection, Impunity, was published by NYQ Books, and her fiction and poetry have appeared in Antioch Review, Prairie Schooner, Quarterly West, and Brooklyn Rail (among others). Shelley works one-on-one with writers of all ages, and is a seasoned college essay tutor: www.shelleystenhouse.com. She has lived in her West Village apartment for 39 years.

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